Salsa all’aglione: Garlic and tomato pasta sauce

Aglione ingredients

In my video about bringoli, I promised you a sauce recipe to serve with them, and here it is. This is one of the most traditional ways to serve pici, pinci, bigoli, or bringoli—as I said in the video, take your pick.

All’aglione translates as ‘with a lot of garlic’ and that’s the key to this recipe. It’s important that the garlic is crushed in a garlic press, or extremely finely chopped, otherwise it will not dissolve into the oil properly while cooking. In the first stage you are trying to achieve garlic infused oil rather than cooked garlic. If the garlic starts to take on any colour other than the green of the olive oil, then your heat is too high. I make this on the lowest setting possible on my hob.

The tomatoes should be peeled, seeded, and finely chopped. The easiest way to peel tomatoes is to cut a little cross in the skin on the top and the bottom and then immerse them in boiling water for a couple of minutes. You’ll find that the skin should come away in four pieces. Then you can chop the tomatoes into quarters and gently slice the centre with the seeds out of each quarter before chopping.

The 100% traditional recipe is made with white wine vinegar but I use balsamic vinegar for an extra dash of umami. My other addition is the butter. I first tasted this sauce at L’osteria di porta al cassero in Montalcino, and I am convinced that they added butter to theirs. It emphasizes the natural creaminess of the cooked tomatoes and really sets the sauce off, but I apologize in advance to anyone whose grandmothers would be shocked by the innovation.

L'Osteria di Porta al Cassero
L’Osteria di Porta al Cassero


I made this sauce several times throughout the summer when we had more tomatoes and chiles growing in the kitchen garden than we could manage to eat. A final note is that this is slow food and don’t be tempted to try and speed the cooking time up by turning up the heat: just open a bottle of wine, wait, and enjoy the wonderful smells coming from your pan. La vita è bella, no?


Salsa all’aglione

Serves 4 as a starter, 2 as a main
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 chile pepper, finely chopped
6 large tomatoes, peeled, deseeded, and chopped
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 knob of unsalted butter


  1. Place the olive oil and garlic in a skillet and heat very gently indeed.  When the oil begins to heat, add the chile pepper and continue to cook extremely gently for about 10 minutes. You do not want the garlic to change colour.
  2. Add the tomatoes to the pan, season with salt. Add the balsamic vinegar and continue to cook gently for another 20 minutes.
  3. After 20 minutes, the sauce should have achieved a creamy consistency. Then add the knob of butter and stir vigorously until melted.
  4. Serve with bringoli (pici) but also with spaghetti, or tagliatelle. It’s a good idea to loosen the sauce with a few tablespoons of the water that you cooked the pasta in. Buon appetito!

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